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banfi I love Italian wines. But they can be challenging. Just like the country itself.

2000 was an average year in Montalcino. But aged Brunellos are among the loveliest of wines and Banfi a top producer. So after a rough day of dealing with household plumbing problems, and with a Stracotto (Italian Pot Roast) in the oven, I was looking forward to opening this.

And indeed there was plenty to enjoy, but it came with a reminder that life is hard and unpredictable.

The color was still ruby but with some bricking and rim variation. A very dark nose of intense black cherry wrapped in roasted, smoky notes, blackstrap molasses, earth, and cinnamon promised a luscious palate.

What I got was sinewy but lean, hard and thinner than expected. Flavors of coffee and licorice were persistent and the finish was long but the texture was rough and grippy, with a distinct lack of body. Despite the development and softening of age, this wine’s rustic core was very much in evidence.

Which reminded me of a trip to Italy a few years ago. We were traveling by bus to Positano on the Amalfi Coast on an absolutely gorgeous January day.positano A few miles from town we came upon a short section of road that had been washed out from a rainstorm the night before. It was impossible for the bus to get through. Yet, somehow the bus company didn’t know about the road closure. What to do with a bus load of stranded passengers? A replacement bus or taxi shuttle from the other side of the wash out perhaps? Ah no. We had to grab our luggage, edge our way along the narrow precipice of the washed out roadway,  and walk into town—an “Italian experience” the bus driver said with an apologetic grin.

Indeed. Just like their wines. Charming and full of flavor but be prepared for some hardship.

Opened in January 2012.  Properly stored.

Good: Complex, interesting nose

Bad: Lack of fruit and body. Rough texture

Distinctive: Distinctly Italian

Price: About $75